Brent Feorene

Sonic Frontiers Line 3 with V-Caps
Sonic Frontiers Line 3 with V-Caps

Brent Feorene is a passionate audiophile.  He is committed to understanding the subtle nuances of building a system based on component synergy, and has spent a great deal of time and energy asking questions, listening, and making careful evaluations.  This journey has led Brent to source, tweak and modify his tubed electronics, optimally dial-in his analog front-end, and recondition a pair of vintage Genesis IM-8300 loudspeakers. 

Brent is a proponent of acquiring high-quality gear in the aftermarket, and then allowing a trusted modification expert to improve the performance further with better parts / tweaks. He believes this strategy, when the goal is to own equipment for the long-term, is a high value approach.

As a percussionist who played classical and jazz music though college, Brent enjoys most music genres.  However, his passion is for jazz, in all its forms. He feels “vinyl and glass” is best, though often the most maddening path to truly immersing himself in this uniquely American music tradition.

After a very positive experience in an extensive “V-Cap” mod of his phono stage by Bill Thalmann, Brent recently undertook an extensive modification project (again, performed by Bill) on his Sonic Frontiers Line 3.  Brent sent these detailed comments to me periodically, as he moved through the burn-in process:

Received the Sonic Frontiers Line 3 back from Bill Thalmann of Music Technology.  It is a two unit line stage with separate PS.  After mod and bench time, the line stage has about 25 additional hours on it in Bill’s home system.  Chris Johnson had previously done his SE+ mod (best mod) on the unit.  I had about 800 hours on the C.Chris Johnson modded unit – included 400 hours of burn-in for the TFTF caps .

I told Bill he had an open checkbook to take this line stage as far as he could.  Bill performed many changes – too many to describe – three pages from Bill.  Because the check book ended up not to be totally “open” :-), we chose not to replace all the RCAs and XLRs on the rear, in a cost saving step. 

Sonic Frontiers Line 3 with V-Caps
Sonic Frontiers Line 3 with V-Caps

Among them, Bill replaced the TFTF caps in the four most critical positions and Mundorf Supreme in the ”lesser” positions (C. Johnson’s arrangement) with Bill’s recommendation of CuTF in the four critical positions and TFTF in all other positions. DH Labs Cu hook-up wire was replaced with VH Audio 21 AWG AirLok Cu hook-up wire at Bill’s insistence – who am I to argue?  The six pair of Reflektor 6922 tubes from C. Johnson's mod were replaced with Siemens 1960s CCas (1 pr), Siemens 1970s CCas (3 pr) and Siemens 1970s E88CCs (2 pr).  The power supply unit was completely rebuilt by Bill – we are talking two weeks of labor on the PS alone.  No further details.

Note:  to reduce hours on these premium NOS Siemens tubes, I ran the line stage with the Reflektors for Days 1 – 17.  It wasn’t until I had 400 hours on the caps that I inserted the Siemens. 
Day 1 – Great mid-range, but bass and treble a huge disappointment.  Did I just make a huge mistake?
Day 2 – Wow – all that money and this?!
Day 3 – used headphones; OK, but nothing special; waiting for the magic.
Day 4 – OK, we are really at Day 5 – Bill’s 25 hours plus four other days.  There is a pony in there at 125 hours – now we are talking.  Bass has really tightened up, mid-range warm and involving, treble remains harsh. I may have made the right decision – give it some time.
Day 13 – Did not listen for several days. 
Day 14 – including Bill’s hours.  Wow.  Mid-range eerie in reality.  Were the TFTF analytical in nature?  This is simply amazing.  I was very surprised how very different the line stage sounded once it broke the 300 hour mark.  Very musical, very involving - lush and warm with no sacrifice in bass or softening of the details. CuTF are TFTF on steriods. Chris’ “Soul of the Music” may not be hyperbole – let’s give it some more time.
Day 17 – Took a few days off for work commitments.  Caps are at about 400 hours.  Inserted the Siemens.  Substantial improvement all around.  Bass is deep, clean and chest thumping.  Mids are like liquid gold.  Sound stage to deep, wide and pin point.  Chris VenHaus (of V-Cap / VH Audio) told me I will know when the caps hit their stride find – they have…
Day 22 –I am back.  Detail, clarity, air – geez…it is getting better…how much further can it go…
Day 23 – Near 450 hours…this is amazing.  Natural, involving and emotional.  Mid-hall – so realistic.  Unbelievable…unbelievable. 

V-Capped Sonic Frontiers Phono StageBrent's system
Final entry - I am at 518 hours now on the line stage. I have about 60 hours on the NOS Siemen CCas and E88CCs. I listened to vinyl - which I had not done, yet. The CuTF caps offer a very realistic, life-like, silky presentation. I had heard this particular acoustic jazz artist several times live and the album was one of those "Live from XXX" - you fill in the blanks. The sense of acoustics and audience was amazing. The three areas that strike me the most are:
1) emotion/humanness - it is soooo close to the live event; vocals are out of this world, almost eerie
2) quiet - my system is dead quiet now; no humm, no hiss, nothing
3) clean & detailed - not etched or in your face, but reflective of what the record is capturing; couple the clean & detail with the quiet and the microdynamics emerge to paint a wonderful picture of the music's nuances. What was particularly amazing is how quiet everything is - really, really quiet. When I started to listen, I kept my SUT (step-up transformer)
arranged as is usual - the phono cable goes in at the 12 ohm tap. This is not a perfect match for my cartridge, which prefers a 35 - 40 ohms tap, but I needed the extra 2 - 3 dB gain the 12 ohm tap offered to get past the tube noise. As you know, when you use too low a resistance in an SUT you do sacrifice dynamics a bit, particulary at the frequency extremes. Well, everyting was soooo quiet, I decided to switch to the 40 ohm tap, lose the 2 - 3 dB and see what's what. I had to increase the gain on the line stage a bit to compensate for the lossed dBs, but let me tell you - just as quiet, but I picked up the dynamics.

The difference between the SE+ mod and the Bill Thalmann V-Capped "all-out assault" versions (save for the RCAs and XLRs) of the line stage are:

  • Quieter/blacker background
  • Mid-range is eerie in its reality - particularly in the reproduction of vocals, but really in all areas
  • Bass is very tight, well-defined and chest thumping
  • Air, sparkle are massive

Most importantly, there is this undefined sense of involvement, intimacy and seduction.  The SE+ sounded awesome - really.  However, the Bill Thalmann V-Capped version seduces you, and you don’t even realize you are being seduced until you look at the clock and figure out how long you have been listening.

- Brent Feorene 

Associated Equipment:
  • VPI TNT Mk IV TT fully updated/Graham Phantom Mk II 10” Titanium Tone Arm/Clearaudio Stradivari MC
  • SF Line 3 line stage (heavily modified by Bill Thalmann of Music Technology – V-Caps)
  • SF SFP-1 phono stage (heavily modified by Bill Thalmann – V-Caps)
  • EAR MC-4 SUT
  • SF SFM-160 monoblocks (heavily modified by Chris Johnson of Parts Connexion)
  • Genesis IM-8300 speakers (completely rebuilt by Audio Ventures in Waukesha, WI – crossovers use OIMP V-Caps)
  • One pair Genesis Servo-10 subs each with a separate amp/crossover unit @ 400w (rebuilt by Play It Again Sam in Lakewood, OH)
  • Silver Audio Silver Breeze for phono
  • Purist Audio Design Venustas Praesto Revision elsewhere
  • Oyaide Tunami, VH Audio Flavor 4, AirSine and Trans PCs
  • Shunyata PLCs – three each with dedicated Oyaide R-1s

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